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How Teachers Learn: Orchestrating Disciplinary Discourse in Science, Literature, and Mathematics Classrooms. (TOD^2)

Project Description Heading link

TOD^2 is one of 11 projects funded in the inaugural round of RFPs issued by the James S. McDonnell Foundation under its new initiative focused on understanding teacher change and teachers as learners in K-12 classrooms. In particular, classroom discussion that engages students in active construction of knowledge can be a powerful vehicle for student learning. However, it is far from common in most K-12 classrooms. The RFP solicited projects focused on how teachers learn “to do” powerful forms of classroom discussion  (

TOD^2 explores these issues in three strands of work with 6th-12th grade teachers. Strand 1 builds on classroom and professional development activities conducted under the auspices of two earlier LSRI projects, Project READI (Reading, Evidence, and Argument in Disciplinary Instruction) and the iFAST Algebra Project (Improving Formative Assessment to Support Teaching). Strand 1 involves researchers and teachers who participated in professional development and classroom enactments on READI and iFAST working together to analyze classroom data as well as the professional development activities that were intended to support them in changing their classroom instructional practices. These largely reflective analyses of what changed, what learning informed changes that were made, and how that learning came about inform conjectures and hypotheses about how teachers learn. As well, the project is comparing and contrasting three disciplines – literature, science, and mathematics –  to explore whether and what different forms of knowledge and practices inform teaching that promotes students’ critical inquiry, deep reading, and reasoning. The Strand 1 work takes advantage of a relatively unique opportunity to partner with the teachers of these classrooms in the analyses.

The findings of Strand 1 inform work with new teachers and schools, the focus of Strands 2 and 3. Strand 2 aims to recruit and work with teachers who are interested in moving their classrooms toward learning environments that engage students in active involvement in learning disciplinary content, inquiry practices, and associated representational forms of conveying and communicating information. Strand 3 explores the contextual dimensions within with teachers are embedded, including school, district, and state- level conditions that may instigate, impinge, or impede teachers’ efforts to change their practices. Strands 2 and 3 employ design based implementation research and improvement sciences approaches to enable adaptive integration of what works for whom, why, and under what circumstances.

Funding Source Heading link

James S. McDonnell Foundation Teachers as Learners Program.

Personnel Heading link

Susan R. Goldman, PI; Co-PIs Alison Castro Superfine, Mon-Lin Monica Ko, and MariAnne George; Investigators: James Pellegrino, Allison Hall; Kathleen Pitvorec, and Angela Fortune. Carol D. Lee, Northwestern University PI, is partnering with LSRI on the grant.